Friday, October 27, 2006

Reactions to the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on equal protection for gay unions

The New Jersey Supreme Court certainly got everyone's attention. The day after the decision came down, Doug Ireland -- a gay man who very much supports same sex marriage -- worried about the potential backlash on the progressive ezine

The Washington Post says the right wing has leaped on it in the hope that they can use it to turn out their conservative base on November 7. Bush ran around the country talking about "activist judges" and calling heterosexual marriage a "sacred institution," according to The Post.

But even The Post praised the ruling on its editorial page:
There is no good reason why same-sex couples in loving and committed relationships should not be granted affirmative recognition from state governments -- recognition that carries with it the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
The New York Times said outright that it "supports gay marriage." Their editorial implied that they would have preferred to see the court use the "M" word, but they applauded the expansion of full marriage-type rights:
The court ruling secures important rights, and paves the way for the full equality that will no doubt come.
And today's includes a piece by Evan Wolfson on how to build an effective campaign for gay marriage.

For those who are disappointed that the ruling stopped short of requiring use of the term marriage, Jack Balkin has an interesting post on Balkinization on why the way the New Jersey court handled this may be more effective in the long term than the Massachusetts high court's ruling upholding gay marriage:
Same-sex marriage is an especially divisive issue at this point in our country's history. It is far better for courts to attempt to engage democratically elected legislatures in the task of designing appropriate remedies. That does not mean that courts should abdicate judicial review of what legislatures come up with. Rather, it means that in responding to challenges to marriage laws by same sex couples, courts should explain what the key constitutional principles are that must be satisfied and then leave it to legislatures to make the political compromises necessary to satisfy them. This will result in all of the branches of state government agreeing on how to resolve the question, and therefore it will greatly enhance the democratic legitimacy of the ultimate result.
The ruling still smacks of separate but equal to me, but Balkin might be right about the process.

We wrote about the ruling here.

The court's opinion can be found in pdf format here.

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